Towards real-world navigation with deep differentiable planners

8 Aug 2021  ·  Shu Ishida, João F. Henriques ·

We train embodied neural networks to plan and navigate unseen complex 3D environments, emphasising real-world deployment. Rather than requiring prior knowledge of the agent or environment, the planner learns to model the state transitions and rewards... To avoid the potentially hazardous trial-and-error of reinforcement learning, we focus on differentiable planners such as Value Iteration Networks (VIN), which are trained offline from safe expert demonstrations. Although they work well in small simulations, we address two major limitations that hinder their deployment. First, we observed that current differentiable planners struggle to plan long-term in environments with a high branching complexity. While they should ideally learn to assign low rewards to obstacles to avoid collisions, we posit that the constraints imposed on the network are not strong enough to guarantee the network to learn sufficiently large penalties for every possible collision. We thus impose a structural constraint on the value iteration, which explicitly learns to model any impossible actions. Secondly, we extend the model to work with a limited perspective camera under translation and rotation, which is crucial for real robot deployment. Many VIN-like planners assume a 360 degrees or overhead view without rotation. In contrast, our method uses a memory-efficient lattice map to aggregate CNN embeddings of partial observations, and models the rotational dynamics explicitly using a 3D state-space grid (translation and rotation). Our proposals significantly improve semantic navigation and exploration on several 2D and 3D environments, succeeding in settings that are otherwise challenging for this class of methods. As far as we know, we are the first to successfully perform differentiable planning on the difficult Active Vision Dataset, consisting of real images captured from a robot. read more

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